Monday, May 4, 2015

Room For Three More

Carly Fiorina, last heard running for the Senate from California after being fired as the CEO of HP, plans to announce her bid for the GOP nomination this week.  She will be joined in that effort by Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has never really quit running since the last time.

clown-car

Check them out now because other than some appearances in the debates that people will watch only because they’re tired of Law & Order SVU re-runs on cable, their announcements are the peaks of their campaigns.

Christie Agonisties

He’s toast.

Around 7:30 a.m., as an audience of technology executives started streaming through the ballroom doors of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in suburban Virginia on Friday, Chris Christie’s iPhone buzzed with the grim news he has awaited for 16 months.

Federal charges were coming in the bizarre case of traffic and revenge with which he had become synonymous.

Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, consulted with advisers, adjusted his jet-black suit and gamely walked onto a stage before 300 guests eating yogurt parfait and almond croissants. He recited statistics about Social Security and Medicare costs and projected the air of a man thoroughly unbothered by the swirling legal drama back in New Jersey, which he left unmentioned.

But behind the scenes, his aides, his allies and even his wife were mobilizing, working the phones and blasting out memos to supporters, trying to hold on to whatever chance Mr. Christie had to make a run at the presidency, according to interviews.

[…]

“Key messages,” the talking points read. “Today’s announcement reinforces what the governor has said since Day 1.” Mr. Christie, they said, “had no knowledge or involvement in the planning, motivation, authorization or execution of the decision to realign lanes on the George Washington Bridge.”

Using the “I had no idea what my staff was doing” excuse worked for Ronald Reagan in Iran/Contra, so that must be why the Republican governor of New Jersey thinks it will work for him now, even if he once tried to sell himself as the hands-on kinda guy America needs.

I never thought he had much of a chance even without the bridge story.  He’s much too moderate for the fire-breathing true-believers of the GOP base; he signed a bill outlawing “ex-gay” therapy in the state and he was nice to Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy, and if those two points don’t set him at odds with the nutsery, nothing will.

Even with the bridge story and even if he did have knowledge of it, it’s not exactly the kind of thing that gets the base’s hearts fluttering.  Exacting revenge from a Democratic mayor for failing to endorse him for re-election doesn’t fly in the flyover states.  What True Republican would want the endorsement of someone from the libtards?  If you want to hit the Democrats, you don’t block traffic; that’s way too subtle, and it hurts both Democrats and Republicans.  You do like Scott Walker did: take on the public sectors unions and grind them into the ground, or you humiliate and degrade the poor with draconian rules on welfare, or deny them healthcare through Medicaid expansion.

That’s how you win the primaries, and without those, the road to the White House for Chris Christie is closed.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Reading

How We Got There — Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker on what racism has done to Baltimore.

… Talk to people in Baltimore—or Ferguson or Staten Island—and invariably you hear criticism of the police not as the police but as a symbol of an entire web of failed social policies, on education, employment, health, and housing. The real question is not one of police tactics: whether the use of body cameras can reduce civilian complaints or whether police-brutality cases should be handled by independent prosecutors. The real question is what life in an American city should be. The issues extend far beyond the parameters of race, but race is the narrative most easily seized upon. (It’s worth noting our tendency to think of declining, mostly white Rust Belt cities elegiacally, and of largely black ones moralistically.)

Midway through the twentieth century, cities—especially those, like Baltimore, which were sustained by ports—connoted a kind of American swagger. Today, the population of Baltimore is six hundred and twenty-three thousand; in 1950, it was nine hundred and fifty thousand. The Second World War diminished ethnic rivalries among white Americans and, with them, the tribal allotments of urban neighborhoods, but that process was accelerated by the fact that those areas were already becoming less appealing. When, in 1910, a black attorney bought a house on a white block in Baltimore, the Sun reported that the presence of blacks would drive down property values. That helped bring about a city ordinance—the first of its kind—establishing block-by-block segregation. It is generally assumed that white flight was a product of the political tumult and the spiking crime that afflicted American cities in the nineteen-sixties, but it may well have been the other way around. Baltimore, three-quarters white in 1950, is now two-thirds black. As the surrounding suburbs became increasingly white, transportation networks that once connected the city and the outlying county crumbled. Industry and employment relocated to the surrounding areas. By the late sixties, the city was marked by poverty, a persistent lack of opportunity, and violent crime.

Conservative commentators have pointed to Baltimore as a kind of anti-Ferguson, a city where, for decades, blacks have had a secure grasp on political leadership, including the mayor’s office; a significant representation in the police force, including, now, the commissioner; and an African-American chief prosecutor, who announced the charges in Gray’s death. Yet Baltimore witnessed the same volatile dynamics that we saw in Missouri last year. The implication is that the problem is not racialized policing but the intractable, fraught nature of securing poor, crime-prone communities. That doesn’t quite square. As the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson suggests, black representation may diminish but by no means resolve policing practices that disproportionately target African-Americans. And the differences in leadership in the two cities belie their conflicts’ common historical roots in segregation. Housing discrimination, of the sort intended by the Baltimore ordinance, was outlawed by a 1948 Supreme Court case, Shelley v. Kraemer, which originated in St. Louis, just a few miles from Ferguson.

Between 1980 and 2010, the population of Ferguson flipped from eighty-five per cent white to sixty-nine per cent black. At some point soon, Ferguson, like Baltimore, may have more proportional black representation, but the socioeconomic trends in that city won’t automatically change. Gray died twenty-eight years after Baltimore’s first black mayor took office, yet the statistical realities at the time of his death—a twenty-four-per-cent poverty rate, thirty-seven-per-cent unemployment among young black men—show how complicated and durable the dynamics of race and racism can be.

Last week, the cover of Time featured an image of Baltimore aflame, with the year 1968 crossed out and 2015 pencilled in. On social media, split-screen images of the riot that followed King’s death and the one that followed Gray’s proliferated. The temptation is to believe that nothing has changed, but something has: Baltimore is blacker and poorer than it was then. It was not difficult to see who set buildings on fire there last week. The more salient concern is how cities become kindling in the first place.

What Bernie Brings to the Race — Bill Curry in Salon on how Bernie Sanders will focus Democrats on defining their message.

At 73, Bernie Sanders must still like to campaign. On Thursday he kicked off a race for president of the United States, the Iron Man triathlon of politics. He has run 20 races already, as many as Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton combined. He says this one, like all the rest, will be a grassroots movement financed by small-donor giving. All politicians say that, but in a career spanning 43 years, Sanders has shown he means it. It’s just one of the reasons why people say he can’t win.

It isn’t the only one, as Washington handicappers hasten to explain. Another is his allegedly unsociable personality. It’s true that he isn’t much of a networker; you won’t see many “Friend of Bernie” pins. He’ll do well with small groups; one on one, not so much. He doesn’t even have quiet charisma. He relies more on logic than charm — and everyone he’s met says that’s the right call.

Most other analysis is standard-issue political punditry. Noting that “there have been no top-flight hires,” Politico quotes a “labor strategist” who says Sanders “doesn’t have a shot” at union endorsements. Bloomberg says “his aversion to big-dollar fundraising raises questions about whether he can collect cash at the level needed to compete with Clinton.” No doubt working with inside sources, the New York Times’ Nate Cohn confides that Sanders “will most likely champion the liberal cause” and then explains why that can’t possibly work: “The left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton.”

Cohn backs up his thesis with a 2014 Pew poll that says lots of Democrats aren’t really liberals. How 2008 turned out the way it did, he doesn’t say.

Clinton loyalists welcome Sanders’ entry because they know she needs a contest, or at least a tune-up. Of course, to get the full benefit she’d have to agree to debate, something she has yet to say she’ll do. That Sanders is six years older than Clinton must feel like a bit of great good luck to them. Some call him a perfect foil; a lesser threat than Warren, yet enough of one to provide progressives with some catharsis while bestowing Clinton with the legitimacy that comes only from competition.

“We’re going to win,” Bernie told ABC’s Jon Karl on Thursday, but everyone assumes he won’t. That assumption marginalized him from the moment he got in the race. On his big day, “CBS This Morning” gave him 34 seconds of coverage. On the Times’ web page, a 662-word news story spent a few afternoon hours beneath a report of the American Psychological Association’s condoning of Bush-era torture tactics before being relegated to a link headlined “Bernie Sanders to Run for President, Opposing Clinton.” A 900-word piece on Hillary’s recent departure from Bill’s old crime agenda helped push it off the page.

It won’t get any easier for Sanders. I hate horse race coverage as much as anyone, but there’s no sense denying such long odds. Liberals who fretted that Hillary might escape a challenge now fret that a poor showing by Bernie may weaken their case. You’d think by now they’d have tired of tactical thinking, but no. There are better ways to think about 2016. You could, for example, think like an organizer. If you haven’t done it in a while, you needn’t worry. It’s like riding a bicycle.

Now or ThenThe Onion reports on the possibility of marriage equality ruling from the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON—Anxiously anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue, the nation was reportedly on edge Wednesday as it waited to see whether the court would legalize gay marriage now or in a few years. “Americans are standing by with bated breath while the justices decide whether to recognize same-sex couples immediately or in two or three years when public opinion has shifted even more overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage,” said legal analyst Jermaine Masse, adding that whether the court would legalize gay marriage at once or merely very soon was still too close to call at this time. “At this very moment, nine individuals are deciding whether to fundamentally alter this country’s definition of marriage right away or by the end of 2018, latest. What’s at stake is nothing less than a 24- to 36-month delay on same-sex marriage being the law of the land.” Masse went on to say that the fact that the nation’s highest court agreed to hear the case in the first place signaled that it was prepared to reject the more conservative notion that gay marriage could wait until the end of the decade.

Doonesbury — Life’s purpose.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Big Fan

Jeb Bush goes for the minority outreach.

Bush lauded Murray’s books on two separate occasions during an interview with National Review editor Rich Lowry, at a forum sponsored by the conservative magazine.

[…]

Murray is the author of the highly influential 1984 book Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 which argued that social welfare programs of the 1960s and 1970s actually hurt the poor rather than helped. It was and remains a seminal work in the conservative policy canon.

Ten years later Murray authored the highly controversial The Bell Curve, which he co-authored with Richard Herrnstein. Critics denounced it as racist, saying it essentially argued that African-Americans aren’t as intelligent as white Americans because of genetic differences. In 1994 Bob Herbert, then a columnist at The New York Times, described the book as a “scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship.”

Maybe he meant Arthur Murray, who can now teach him how to dance his way out of this big mess.

Short Takes

Baltimore police turned over the results of their investigation into the death of Freddie Gray to the state’s attorney.

Bernie Sanders made it official.

Wow — A teenager was rescued from the earthquake ruins in Nepal.

The American Psychological Association collaborated with the Bush administration to bolster justification of torture.

What a surprise: Research has turned up more than 20 errors and distortions in the Clinton-bashing book.

The Tigers lost 8-1 in K.C.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Short Takes

Baltimore: 111 people still remain behind bars without being charged.

Hillary Clinton on prison reform and race.

Nigerian authorities say 200 girls and women have been rescued from Boko Haram.

California is under orders to cut greenhouse emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

A key official connected to the George Washington Bridge closure is going to plead guilty.

The Tigers beat the Twins 10-7.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bernie Sanders Is Running

Via Vermont Public Radio:

VPR News has learned from several sources that Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks.

Sanders’ entry into the Democratic race ensures that Hillary Clinton will face a challenge to win the support of the liberal wing of the party.

Sanders’ basic message will be that the middle class in America has been decimated in the past two decades while wealthy people and corporations have flourished.

I like Bernie Sanders a lot.  I like hearing his ideas and thoughts when he’s on TV and I’ve been following his career since he was elected as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont.  I also think his chances of winning the nomination are the same as those of Rick Santorum winning on the GOP side.

It’s not because Hillary Clinton has it all sewn up.  First, I don’t think she has it, and second, even if she was not in the race Mr. Sanders’ chances would be just as slim.  His appeal as an independent has always been to a narrow segment of the Democratic Party, and when a party is in the minority in the House, the Senate, and the state legislatures and governors mansions, you don’t nominate someone who narrowcasts and hope the message will spread.

Mr. Sanders has been a staunch independent since the day he ran for office.  He’s caucused in the House and the Senate with the Democrats, but still he has been an independent who wore that label proudly.  Now he’s going to join the Democrats and run in their primaries.  That’s not going to endear him to the party, who will see him as just an interloper after their money and mailing lists, and the independent voters who have backed him for years will feel abandoned.  There’s a reason they’re independents; they don’t agree with some of the stands of either party, and they take have a right to feel like he is selling them out.

And then there’s the whole Socialist label thing.  He’s never shied away from it, and he wears it with pride.  (Those who think Barack Obama is a socialist should compare him to Mr. Sanders and see just how centrist the president really is.)  There is absolutely nothing wrong at all with calling yourself what you are, and this country is rife with socialist ideas and programs and has been since the day it was founded.  But it’s gotten a bad rap in the last 100 years or so and there are even Democrats who flinch at hearing “socialism,” so imagine how much fun it will be trying to redefine the word in the middle of a presidential primary.

I’m glad he’s in the race; I think he’ll bring some interesting issues to it, but I can’t help but think that he’ll be seen by the voters as just a foil for the Clinton campaign to show how mainstream Ms. Clinton is and make her that much more palatable to the broad spectrum of the electorate that will get her into office.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I’m Shocked, Shocked

Capt RenaultI’m not mollified by the Clinton campaign denials that there is no quo to go with the quid that the Clinton Foundation got from dubious donors.  Even if everything is on the up and up, it’s still has the appearance of impropriety, and what is America all about if not appearances?

Neither am I impressed with the “both sides do it” mantra which seems to be keeping all but the most spittle-flecked of the Clinton haters from speaking up too loudly.  After all, the most the GOP can do is scoff at the allegation that the Clintons used a foundation to collect favor-seeking donations from interested parties, both foreign and domestic.  Foundations are so 1990’s.  The big money comes from tacky rich people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers.  After Citizens United, why bother using a foundation as a shield?  You can go out there and sell yourself without all the paperwork.

You would have to be hopelessly naive to think that people who give money to a candidate or a candidate’s PAC or a candidate’s family’s foundation was doing it out of patriotism.  The bottom line, so to speak, for every campaign since the dawn of time and elections has been “What’s in it for me?”

So whether it’s Marco Rubio sucking up to some wizened denizen of casinos in Macau or Russians paying Bill Clinton half a million bucks to talk, the amount of money is less important than the fact that we consider it to be newsworthy or concerned that it might be “corrupting the electoral process.”  Quick, summon Captain Renault.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Keep Using That Word

Ted Cruz may be smart, but he keeps on using a word that he doesn’t seem to know the meaning thereof.

“Obama is a disaster because he’s an unmitigated socialist, what he believes is profoundly dangerous, and he’s undermined the Constitution and the role of America in the world.”

If Barack Obama is a socialist, he sucks at it.  The stock market is through the roof, corporate profits are at all-time highs, and unemployment is down to 5%.  That doesn’t sound like the results of socialism, which, for those of you who were not paying attention in Grade 10 social studies class, means that the means of production such as the major industries like manufacturing are publicly owned.

Actually, we need to give Ted Cruz a bit more credit.  He knows he can holler “socialism!” in a crowded theatre and get the expected response.  He probably knows the meaning of the word, but he knows that the crowd he’s reaching out to hears “socialism” and freaks out, even though most of them are the beneficiaries of forms of it such as public education (for what it was worth to them), their pension, and their Medicare, not to mention the basic forms of socialism that we all take for granted like the water and sewer system.  But as long as Mr. Cruz can bamboozle the rubes, he’ll keep using that word.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cattle Call

Scene: A darkened theatre.  On stage is a ghost light.  In the wings is a motley collection of hopefuls.  Out in the house, unseen, is a collection of producers and sycophants.

Suddenly a stern voice comes out of the dark: “Next!”  An actor strides out on stage doing his best to mask his anxiety.  He clutches a script, the pages already rumpled with the sweat and tears of previous actors vying for the role.  He stands next to the light.  The stern voice says, “Name!”

“Uh, Jeb Bush.”

“Go!”

The actor clears his throat:  “My fellow Americans…”

“Thank you!  Next!”

*

One of the many reasons I’m not a professional actor is that I like having a steady paycheck and not having to worry about going to auditions along with every other actor in town for a part and having to prove to some collection of producers and casting agents that I have what they’re looking for.

But that’s part of the deal of being in the business, and even well-known actors with stellar resumes have to start from scratch for every job; very few of them get to walk on stage without having to run the gauntlet of auditions with every other next star wannabe.

That applies to presidential candidates, too, but this time around it’s not the voters they’re trying to impress with their talents.  It’s the producers.

Yesterday, Nicholas Confessore reported that David Koch, the extremely influential Republican donor, told other Republican donors that he and his brother Charles would support Scott Walker for the Republican nomination. The Kochs’ support in a Republican primary is potentially transformative, because they are known to write powerfully argued op-eds and deliver compelling speeches that marshal unimpeachable logic on behalf of their ideals. But the comment, which was not intended for public consumption, was quickly disputed by the Kochs, who don’t want to forfeit their chance to make other candidates compete for their blessing. “Let me be clear, I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time,” Mr. Koch declared for the record.

The Koch damage control continues this morning, in the form of a Mike Allen report that, per an unnamed “top Koch aide,” the brothers remain uncommitted. Indeed, reports Allen, “Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support.” The Kochs seem to be hoping for a lead character who can play the role a little less patrician and a little more Middle America, but Jeb will be given an opportunity to show that he can stretch. So for anybody concerned that the democratic process might be short-circuited by the Kochs precipitously anointing a front man, rest assured. All the candidates will have the chance to curry their favor.

There are no small parts, just small actors.

Backseat Driver

It must be something pathological: Republicans can’t say anything nice about anything Barack Obama did even if it has proven to be wildly successful.

Today’s example: Marco Rubio and the auto industry bailout.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Friday that the $85 billion auto bailout was not the “right way” to handle the troubled sector in 2008 and 2009.

At an appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Florida senator said the rescue of General Motors Co. and then Chrysler Group LLC was not the right position for the federal government to take. “I don’t think that was the right way to handle it, but certainly our auto industry is important. Again, it was a problematic approach that the federal government took to doing it….”

And what would he have done?  Well, he doesn’t say, although he restrained himself from echoing Mitt Romney and let Detroit go bankrupt, but neither does he say what would have been the “right way” to save a vital industry and several million jobs.

Would it kill his political career to say just once that a government policy worked?  One could only hope.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Buying Garbage

The New York Times owns up to working with a right-wing hit man for dirt on Hillary Clinton.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

It’s a time-saving measure: why bother to do the work of “journalism” when you can go out there and buy whatever crap someone is peddling?

Do you really think the Times is buying into this so they can debunk it?

Things Go Better With Koch

That’s Scott Walker’s new campaign slogan.

Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, appear to have a favorite in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee.

“When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination,” Mr. Koch told the crowd, the billionaire brothers would support him, according to a spokeswoman. The remark drew laughter and applause from the audience of fellow donors and Republican activists, who had come to hear Mr. Walker speak earlier at the event, held at the Union League Club.

Two people who attended the event said they heard Mr. Koch go even further, indicating that Mr. Walker should be the Republican nominee. A spokeswoman disputed that wording, saying that Mr. Koch had pledged to remain officially neutral during the primary campaign.

But Mr. Koch’s remark left little doubt among attendees of where his heart is, and could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the “invisible primary,” a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers.

Well, at least they’re not being shy about it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It Must Be The Bugs

I know I’ve posted a lot about Marco Rubio getting into the presidential race and I suppose there are some of you who are getting tired of me treating him like a rented mule, but since he’s not going to be in the race for very long, we might as well get in our licks now.

Actually, I’ll turn it over to Adam Weinstein at Gawker who informs us that the junior senator from Florida is “the biggest idiot running for president.

A lot of people in the United States don’t know anything about soon-to-be ex-senator Marco Rubio of Florida, which means he theoretically still has a chance to be president, the same way the Philadelphia Phillies can still theoretically win this year’s pennant. It will not last, and it will never have been realistic.

Rubio’s entry in the 2016 presidential race will fuck up his hitherto inexplicably promising career. It will cost the Republican Party dearly in Florida and in Washington. It will prove to be one of the dumbest moves in the dumb history of politics. This will happen because Marco Rubio is that rare youthful combination of un-telegenic bumbling incompetence and malign corruption only Florida can nourish to maturity.

Rubio has two major political achievements. First, he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives—an annual beauty pageant of ugly Republicans, by ugly Republicans, for ugly Republicans, so that ugly Republicans shall not perish from the earth. Second, he took an election from political changeling Charlie Crist, something that a reanimated pygmy skink could do, and has done. The thickest section of Rubio’s resumé is his involvement in some truly ghastly internecine political and financial corruption. But he’s running against a Clinton, a Bush, and a Texan. So much for that advantage.

Sure: On paper, Rubio looks like a formidable candidate, a nod to consensus wisdom on Republican electoral demographics. Part of the problem is not with him, so much as with the contradictions inherent in that wisdom. He sounds like a doctrinaire conservative, who hates social welfare and undocumented immigrants and alternate lifestyles. But! He’s young and Latino! Who better to deliver a grumpy retrograde anti-minority vision of America’s future?

It’s true, Rubio’s face is taut next to that of his rough contemporary and fellow Cuban-American, Ted Cruz. But it doesn’t really exude freshness—like a Winn-Dixie cheddar log whose expiration date is months into the future, but whose suspicious shrink-wrapped languor still makes you pass it by in the supermarket cooler. You’ve gotta be really hungry to give it a chance.

Cruz—who also will not be president in 2017—provides a perfect contrast to Rubio. Because Ted Cruz, however much of a detestable pandering creeper he might be, is an astute politician who has real incentives to crash the GOP primary this year. It helps him raise his profile for 2020 or later. More critically, it helps him grab de facto national leadership of rank-and-file Republicans that his Senate colleagues have refused to hand him de jure. Cruz is going the Julius Caesar route, and it will work out just fine for him.

Rubio has none of those incentives. He is skipping a run for reelection to the Senate next year. So in order to kiss an Iowa state-fair butter cow and hope it convinces enough slackjaw racist-emailing state delegates to rush over to his corner of some god-forsaken parqueted gym floor in Dubuque, he will have to give up a job he could have held for life as a United States senator in the union’s fast-growing, third-largest, politically up-for-grabs state. A job that could have positioned him well for 2020 or 2024 or the governor’s mansion or Fox News, after he’d had a few more seasons to learn to talk with his tongue in his mouth.

More to the point, Rubio’s decision is going to cost Republicans hundreds of millions in critical political money at best, and lose them a previously safe Senate seat at worst. He was uniquely positioned to hold his seat in a presidential election year, which typically favors Democrats in Florida. Thanks to his blandness and his refusal to do, like, policy, his approval numbers and net positives beat those of any other state politician. No other Republican comes close.

And for all that risk, what is to be gained? When Rubio fails to win a ride on Marine One, he becomes an unemployed loser. Another Charlie Crist. Only younger and with fewer friends.

Florida has had its share of idiot politicians, probably more on a per-capita basis than a lot of other states; it must have something to do with the weather and the freakishly large cockroaches.  (I know that’s what kept my parents from moving here two years ago.)  In the fifteen years I’ve been back, we’ve seen the likes of Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Ted Yoho, Charlie Crist, and Allen West, and those are just the ones who made themselves famous on TV.  The state legislature has its fair share of whackos, and that’s according to people who like them and work for them.

And now two of our more embarrassing examples are running for president.  People who think they know say that Jeb is a “moderate.”  Yes, compared to Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum, I suppose he is, the same way that Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia was a “moderate” dictator compared to Joseph Stalin.  He’s not a bomb thrower, but remember Terri Schiavo, remember endorsing the state constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the ban on gay adoption and his “moderate” facade slips down to reveal he’s just another right-winger desperately trying to salvage his family name in the same way the last of the Medicis decided it might be a good idea to dress up as Santa Claus and try to get folks to forget about all that earlier stuff.

Marco Rubio will land on his feet, I’m sure.  He probably found the Senate to be a bore, what with all that homework they made him do and being held accountable for latching onto an immigration bill that would generate some street cred until it blew up in his face with the Tea Party, who already are plotting to birther him.  But hey, when he can go back to your nice house in Weston, land a teaching gig at FIU and get the T.A.’s to do all the boring stuff like grade papers, and collect both his Florida and U.S. Senate pension and benefits, ignominiously losing a presidential primary is just a fly in his cafe con leche.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

On Your Marco, Get Set…

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is planning to announce he’s running for president today here in Miami, using the Freedom Tower as his backdrop.

Well, not to rain on his parade, but I am confident that this is going to be the high point of his run for the White House.  The most he can hope for is second or third place in the primaries behind Jeb Bush and either Scott Walker or some other flavor of the month (hey, it’s been a while since we’ve heard from Chris Christie), and perhaps be considered as a vice presidential candidate.  The problem with that is that if the nominee is Jeb Bush, Mr. Rubio is constitutionally blocked from being the on the ticket with someone from the same state.

If Mr. Rubio decides to keep his campaign going, Florida law prohibits him from running for re-election to the Senate.  So he’s going to have to make a decision about that, and assuming his ego is as strong as it appears to be, he’s going to stick to the presidential run and thereby open up his seat for a race back home.  And there are already people jockeying for that race.

The presumptive Republican frontrunner, Jeff Atwater, currently the state’s CFO, has decided not to run, leaving the GOP field wide open.  The Democrats already have Rep. Patrick Murphy announced for the race, and while the Democrats don’t have a lock on the election, they do better in Florida during a presidential election year.

As for Marco Rubio, I’m sure he’ll land on his feet either as a high-powered lobbyist or a host on Fox News.

Why Hillary Will Win

According to Jonathan Chait, Hillary Clinton will probably win the 2016 election.  Why?  Because there’s no reasonable alternative.

She cannot promise her supporters a dramatic change or new possibilities; she is personally too familiar, and the near certainty of at least one Republican-controlled chamber of Congress suggests continued legislative stalemate. Her worry is that ennui sets in among the base and yields a small electorate more like the kind that shows up at the midterms, which is an electorate Republicans can win.

The argument for Clinton in 2016 is that she is the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics. There is only one choice for voters who want a president who accepts climate science and rejects voodoo economics, and whose domestic platform would not engineer the largest upward redistribution of resources in American history. Even if the relatively sober Jeb Bush wins the nomination, he will have to accommodate himself to his party’s barking-mad consensus. She is non-crazy America’s choice by default. And it is not necessarily an exciting choice, but it is an easy one, and a proposition behind which she will probably command a majority.

I am pretty sure that in the next nineteen months we’re going to hear a lot of reasons why she can’t win or why the Republicans will come up with their dream candidate… presumably someone we haven’t heard of yet.  But the GOP base is so locked into the anti-Clinton/anti-Obama conspiracy/scandal mode — trust me, Benghazi and the private e-mails are just the amuse-bouches — that even if Ronald Reagan came back he couldn’t make the lunatic fringe calm down enough to bring enough Democrats and independents over to get them over the finish line.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Reading

Punching DownwardDoonesbury creator Garry Trudeau on free speech, satire, and the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo.

I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.

And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another.

What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.

As Seen on TV — Charlie Pierce on what happened in South Carolina.

No video, no crime.

That’s the simple truth of it. That’s all you know and all ye needs to know about the cold-blooded slaying of Walter Scott by Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina. No video, and Slager drops his Taser by Scott’s body and probably gets away with what he did. No video, and Scott goes down as just another of the many semi-hoodlums that are occupational hazards to our brave men in blue. No video, and Slager’s doing three nights a week on Hannity’s show by next Monday. No video, and Slager’s half-a-hero, while Scott remains dead.

But there is a video and Slager is shown both killing Scott, and appearing to try to cover it up in that most ancient of cop ways — with a drop piece. He is seen handcuffing a dying man. So let us not have any explanation containing the phrase “isolated incident.” Let us have no talk of “split-second decisions” or the “heat of the moment.” What we see in the video is Slager’s almost instantaneous response to what he’s done. Drop a weapon. Concoct a story. Rely on your brother officers and ginned-up public opinion to mount your defense. Rely on the fact that you’re a white man with a badge and the person you killed was clearly neither one. In everything we see on the video, Michael Slager was following…procedure.

There is a video, so Michael Slager will face murder charges in this case, and that is as it should be, but the systemic problem goes merrily on.

North Charleston is South Carolina’s third-largest city, with a population of about 100,000. African-Americans make up about 47 percent of residents, and whites account for about 37 percent. The Police Department is about 80 percent white, according to data collected by the Justice Department in 2007, the most recent period available.

The country has to decide what the function of its police forces actually is. Is it their function to protect and to serve all citizens, or is it to respond with overwhelming deadly force to placate the fears that one sector of the population nurses toward The Other? Are our police custodians of ordered liberty or some sort of Praetorian Guard of established privilege? I’m sympathetic enough to the average officer to believe that many of them want to be the former, but are trained too thoroughly in the techniques of the latter. I hope the villain of this piece doesn’t turn out to be the guy who took the video, but I’m not sure that won’t be the case. There shouldn’t have to be video, is what I’m saying.

In extremely related news, the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri turned out in admirable numbers to begin to change the essential nature of their city government yesterday. For all the noise and bother, this is how you do it, one phone call at a time, one more door on which to knock. This is how the culture changes. This is how we get our police back.

The Spending Begins — Andy Borowitz on the unconscionable waste of money yet to come.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The two major political parties’ unconscionable waste of money officially commences this weekend, as Democrats and Republicans will soon begin spending an estimated five billion dollars of their corporate puppet masters’ assets in an unquenchable pursuit of power.

The billions, which could be spent rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, improving schools, or reducing the scourge of malaria in Africa, will instead be squandered in a heinous free-for-all of slander and personal destruction, alienating voters as never before.

The media will inevitably focus on the personalities of the bloated roster of narcissists lusting after the White House, but scant attention will be paid to the Wall Street bankers, industrial polluters, and casino magnates whose grip on American democracy will remain vise-like.

While attention this weekend turns to the Democrats, the Republicans remain quietly confident about their chances of purchasing the nation’s highest office. In the words of one top operative, “Our billionaires can beat their billionaires.”

Doonesbury — Sure-fire investment.